Cookbook | Recipes | Ingredients
Marshmallow is a type of confection or candy made of stabilized aerated sugar.
At its most basic, all marshmallow is a confection of cooked sugar that is stabilized and made fluffy by the incorporation of air. The exact physical characteristics depend on the ingredients and their proportions, but most marshmallow tends to be light, chewy, stretchy, and very sweet.
Historically, marshmallow was made from the sap of the marshmallow plant, sugar, and egg whites. The marshmallow sap has since been primarily replaced with gelatin in modern marshmallow, although other stabilizers like agar, soy protein, and carrageenan may also be used to stabilize the sugar foam and achieve the requisite elastic consistency. Depending on the formula, egg whites and albumen may or may not be included. A variety of sugars can be used, including table sugar (sucrose), glucose syrup, corn syrup, etc. Food coloring and/or additional flavoring can be added to achieve the desired final product.
When exposed to direct heat, marshmallow will begin to soften and eventually caramelize, producing a sweet with additional depth of flavor.
Marshmallow can be adjusted to yield different textures. Typical "firm" marshmallow has a high stabilizer (e.g. gelatin) content that gives it a soft but bouncy texture that will hold its shape. When the amount of stabilizer is reduced, the texture becomes much softer and more spreadable, making marshmallow creme. Increasing the sugar content and dehydrating the marshmallow produces cereal marshmallows, which have a very sweet flavor and dense, crunchy texture.
At small scale, marshmallow is made by cooking a hot sugar syrup, mixing in gelatin and/or egg whites, and whipping in air by hand or electric mixer. The fluffy marshmallow mixture can then be shaped by piping or transfer to a mold, at which point the marshmallow is allowed to cool and set into its final shape. Often cornstarch and/or powdered sugar are used to prevent sticking.
Large-scale, commercial marshmallow manufacturing relies primarily on extrusion to aerate and shape the confection. The hot sugar mixture is then forced through tubes under pressure, which incorporates air into the mixture and shapes it into ropes. These ropes are then typically cut into individual marshmallows.
Marshmallows can have a long shelf life when properly stored. Exposure to the environment can cause marshmallows to dry out and become stale or melt together into a sticky clump. These marshmallows are still edible, but to preserve their original texture they should be kept in airtight packaging.
In the United States, marshmallows are toasted then combined with chocolate and graham crackers to make a dessert called s'mores.
Colored mini marshmallows
Bag of standard commercially-available American marshmallows
Colored marshmallow shaped and twisted into ropes
Marshmallow molded into the shape of chicks and coated with colored sugar
Lucky Charms brand cereal topped with colorful dehydrated marshmallows
Confection made of chocolate-dipped marshmallow
A fire-toasted marshmallow
S'more filled with melted marshmallow
Hot chocolate topped with marshmallows